Rivaling the Amazon in size and ecological importance, the boreal forest in Canada sustains billions of migratory songbirds, tens of millions of ducks and geese, hundreds of thousands of caribou, and countless other wildlife species. And its soils, peatlands, and wetlands store twice as much carbon as tropical forests.
The international boreal conservation campaign, initiated in 2000 by The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of its efforts to help protect globally important forest and freshwater ecosystems, was a coalition of Indigenous peoples, advocates, scientists, and business and civic leaders with a shared vision of sustaining the natural, cultural, and economic values of the boreal for future generations.
The boreal is home to more than 600 Indigenous communities that continue to draw on the forest for food, cultural traditions, and economic prosperity. For more than two decades, the campaign actively supported local and regional Indigenous land-use planning—the process through which communities identify which lands they want to protect and where they will allow sustainable development.
Many Indigenous nations are working to sustain lands within their traditional territory by establishing Indigenous protected and conserved areas (IPCAs), which elevate Indigenous rights and responsibilities and reflect nations’ relationships with the land. Since 2018, several IPCAs have been created, generating some of the largest land conservation gains in North America. These areas are often co-managed by Indigenous Guardians, trained experts who monitor lands and waters on their nations’ behalf.
As part of Canada’s commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the federal government is working to protect at least 25% of its lands by 2025 and 30% by 2030 and—in recognition of how central Indigenous-led conservation will be to reaching these targets—has dedicated 340 million Canadian dollars over five years, beginning in 2021, to support IPCAs and Indigenous Guardians programs.
Partnerships between Indigenous and Crown governments could help make the boreal in Canada the best-protected forest on Earth and a global model of conservation rooted in respect and reconciliation.
In 2023, Pew launched its new Conservation Canada project to continue working with Indigenous and other partners to protect Canada’s lands and waters.